Review by Frank Plowright
A clever English title (conceived by Cinebook rather than using the more vague French title of SOS Bonheur) is applied to Jean Van Hamme’s smart extrapolations about an increasingly controlled society. Produced toward the end of the 1980s, Authorised Happiness 1 had moments of disturbing prescience about how Western societies have evolved since Van Hamme wrote the stories, and that’s hammered home over the opening two pages here. They show a minister on TV extolling the benefits of the government’s new multi-purpose electronic ID card with fingerprint technology linked to medical, tax and police records, and bank balance. Satisfyingly, this smug specimen spends the rest of the story becoming a victim of his own invasive procedures.
His fate occurs in the first of another three stories concerning the prescribed society, these more varied than the first volume. Van Hamme masterfully prolongs the agony of childhood naivety in the second, before confounding expectations, and in the third examines a state sanctioned writer. It’s not that he’s being told what to write, you understand, just that publishers can equally choose to reject his stories about the underclass and deprivation, and life would be easier if he wrote about different topics.
Griffo draws natural people in natural surroundings, able to convey both day to day life and glamour convincingly. He again supplies a selection of rich personalities, no more so than in the second story in which the innocent child, seen slightly more knowingly on the cover, has a conversation with the President about the iniquities of society.
Perhaps enjoyable would be the wrong term to apply to another three smart stories showing the world as it could be under complete state control, while maintaining the pretence of choice and freedom. It’s smart, and it’s food for thought.
As before, the individual stories are separated by pictures of a continually disintegrating statue, which becomes a metaphor for state control explored in Authorised Happiness 3.